Why sports organizations should develop their own OTT platforms

OTT sports broadcasting i3dnet
7 March 2024

This article will look at the current landscape of sports streaming and make a case for why it is time for sports organizations (league and tournament organizers) to considering developing their own OTT platforms, for the sake of both their audience and to maximize revenue streams.

Table of Contents

In a world where shows, movies and user-created videos are easily accessible online at the click of a button we have amazing platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and more how is it that sports streaming is both difficult and disparate to access?

The modern fan’s choices

Good old-fashioned cable TV

If, for instance, you are a football fan like me, you have three options. One is that you hope and pray that your local cable provider gives you access to all the matches/games/races that you want to watch for the fee that you pay monthly to gain access to the service. However, this is easier said than done considering the issue of disparate rights of broadcasters and regional licenses, making it difficult for users to get all the content with one subscription. Depending on which team or sport you follow, you will need access to a specific set of competitions/leagues and cup tournaments, and all of them are rarely featured on a single broadcaster’s platform.

The subscription model

The other is to go the modern route and pay for an online subscription. There are countless services of this sort and their brand and terms of agreement vary depending on your country of residence and the sport in question. The problem of not being able to get everything you need — as highlighted above — becomes more pronounced in this model, however. Various competitors often have partial rights to stream, which means that you might end up paying an exorbitant sum to get all the content you need, alongside downloading multiple apps from competing platforms to get everything you want.  

The illegal stream

The third option is of course through illegal streaming. While this is not ideal for any party involved except for those hosting the illegal stream perhaps (the sport loses money, broadcasters lose money and the users lose out on key moments through unreliable streams), it accounts for heavy amounts of viewership during major sports events.

The future is digital

While there is still a large audience base on cable TV, there is growing consensus among experts that the future is digital. With increased accessibility to the internet comes the wider use of mobile devices and the flexibility to watch your favorite team or sports star on the go. Users want more options. With Smart TVs in their homes, and cell phones, tablets and laptops for mobile devices, the option to be able to watch anywhere you want is simply too appealing to pass on. This is why you see over-the-top (OTT) platforms of existing cable providers and broadcasters or new internet-only OTT apps gain popularity and draw viewers onto their platforms.

Why should sports organizations consider shifting to OTT platform disbursal themselves?

The current model of sports production includes many stakeholders, all taking a slice of the profit pie and working together to create a final product for the audience. Even if we ignore the vast amount of money that changes hands in the form of sponsorships, player wages, ticket sales and more, the actual broadcasting itself also has several stages that are handled by various actors along the chain. 

Broadly speaking, you have the teams, the sports organizations, the broadcasters and the OTT platforms all performing a critical function to deliver the final product to the audience. But there is an argument to be made for the sports organizations— whether it is an international/national-level league or a tournament held regularly — to handle the entire product themselves.

Additionally, many sports organizations are already operating in the broadcasting sphere in some capacity or the other with the rise of supplementary content for YouTube and other value-added services surrounding the sport. 

Increased revenue is the goal

The ‘why’ here has a simple answer: increased revenue and profit. The ‘how’ is a more tricky question but we will look at this issue in a little more detail in future articles. For now, there is an intro to this in our previous piece on real-time applications and infrastructure considerations. If the sports organizations host all content on their own, this will of course result in the loss of licensing fees, but the increased revenue from monetizing the audience yourself means that the fee becomes redundant. There would be fewer stakeholders vying for a share of the profits and that means more for everyone involved. The issue is a little more complicated than simple mathematics of course, but this does not mean that the argument is flawed in principle.

Reduce the impact of illegal streaming

The battle against illegal streaming is one that governments and broadcasters alike do not look to be winning anytime soon. This means that the only way to cut out the black market is through offering an easier model of viewership, one that is preferably accessible to the entire audience base. This does not mean that the market for illegal streaming will be eliminated: there will always be some who don’t want to pay, no matter how cheap or easy it is. But that is an uncontrollable factor. For all others, providing viewers with an easy-to-use service is the bedrock of reducing their dependency on illegal avenues. Just take a look at Netflix, YouTube and Spotify and how they managed to reduce (not eliminate) pirated content consumption in their fields (Aguiar and Waldfogel, 2015).

Giving the fans what they want

At this point, the model of having to juggle multiple subscriptions to watch a single team or league is clearly unsustainable for many fans. This is essentially enabling illicit activities such as piracy. Add this to the fact that fans still have to shift to YouTube or other platforms to watch supplementary content or related archival footage and you have a jumbled mess, which is what the current digital sports landscape looks like today.

Emotion is all-important in sport

The whole idea behind sports is that it transcends borders and divisions, and glues passionate viewers to their screens while watching those unmissable moments. Yet, on the broadcasting side, the experience is detrimentally affected by having to look for the match, while paying exorbitant sums to try and make sure you catch everything live. If OTT platforms were managed by sporting organizations, we would have a scenario where accessing the sport could be easier (and potentially cheaper) for the fans, and all of the exorbitant profits would go straight to those who are directly involved in promoting and organizing these sports.

It is time we moved past the antiquated model and towards something that fits in the context of today’s digital world.

Main Take-Aways

This article makes a case for sports organizations to consider moving towards developing their own OTT platforms, and why this will be beneficial for the sport and its fans alike.